In what I can only assume was an undiagnosed period of mania two weeks ago, I bought a harmonica. It’s in the key of C, it’s a ‘Fender Blues Deluxe’, and it came with its own velvet-lined case. It only cost me a tenner. When it arrived in the post, I tore away the packaging excitedly, clicked open the case, and beheld my new instrument: gleaming, silver, immaculate. Now I had only to learn how to play the thing.
Opening Youtube, I typed in ‘harmonica lessons’, clicked the video with the most views, and followed the instructions of the lank-haired man on screen. Puckering my lips into an arsehole shape and placing them carefully over the 4th hole, I gave an exploratory toot. Alas, the mournful mechanical bleat that followed sounded like somebody punting the cock of an unsuspecting C3PO. Disgruntled, I sought a new instructor. My next digital sensei had a large pale orb for a head, and sad eyebrows. He tried to teach me to play bendy notes, and failed. Frustrated, I moved onto another teacher – a vacant looking man whose eyes rolled back every time he blew into his instrument. And slowly, one thing occurred to me: why are all these harmonica teachers so powerfully odd? Why is their aura so very… moist? Is the harmonica… is the harmonica not a sexy instrument?
This distressing realisation led me to consider a much larger question:
WHAT IS THE SEXIEST INSTRUMENT?
Jarvis Cocker founded Pulp, famously, because he was a speccy nerd and wanted girls to fancy him. Everybody knows that musical talent is attractive; we’ve all been present at an open mic night when a real damp loaf of a person has clambered onstage and transformed suddenly into a spicy phoenix.* But which instrument is the most attractive to play? Which one makes audiences swoon? Out of the five instruments whose existence I am aware of – which one is the sexiest?
*I myself have sadly never transformed onstage; rather I have devolved, regressing into some kind of early-Earth cave-dwelling creature, cowering from bright lights and loud noises, staring out at the expectant congregation with the same expression one might greet a falling atom bomb.
Is it: The Harmonica?
No. It is not the harmonica – we can rule that out. Any instrument that makes you purse your lips and squirt air from your puffed cheeks like a boiling kettle cannot ever be sexy. What a fool I was. What a fool.
Is it: The Guitar?
Maybe. For me there’s a sweet spot of guitar-playing sexiness: you want to be good, but not too good. You want to be talented and passionate, but not obsessed. The guitar is unique among instruments in this sense: being too good makes you a nerd. Ever watched a Youtube video of a teenager smashing their way through ‘Through the Fire and Flames’ on Guitar Hero without making a single mistake? Does it get your heart racing? Does it get your loins all giddy? No, no it does not.
The sweet spot is like, Kurt Cobain, Joan Jett, Alex Turner. They’re great, they can hammer out girthy riffs, but you just know they’d never dream of talking about guitar pedals at parties. Hendrix and Santana are at the limit: insanely talented, but it comes off as loose, innate, shagger talent, rather than ‘I have languished in a foisty dungeon for nineteen hundred days honing my craft’ talent. Buckethead, mate: you.
Is it: The Bass?
Yeah it is. What? I can reach a conclusion early if I want to. It’s my article, and I say the bass is the sexiest instrument. What you gunna do? Leave an angry comment? Fuck you.
The bass is the sexiest instrument because it’s big and lumbering but oozes low-key sex. The bass is the dance-leader, the heart-rattler, the oh-my-god-these-tremors-are-making-the-mandy-kick-in-too-hard tool of bliss and destruction. It’s hard to not look cool playing a bass, regardless of your skill level or your style: Flea bopping around stage like a bumblebee after a monstrous lick of sugar; John Entwistle, motionless, plucking dutifully at the strings as his bandmates burn the stage down and cymbal shards and severed digits whiz past his expressionless head; Este Haim gurning like an industrial mincer as her long hair billows around her; Thundercat clad in a pink hoodie, busting finger-wrecking chords with the ease with which a mortal would turn the pages of a newspaper.
Is it: The Drums?
No, because I’ve already decided it’s the bass guitar. The drums, I suppose, can be quite sexy. Cindy Blackman donning jet black shades and a vest top, thwacking the shit out of a kit before a crowd of mesmerised festivalgoers: pretty cool. Travis Barker pouting as he blitzes through Blink 182’s frenetic early material: not bad. Meg White looking aloof as she stomps the kick while her husband wrangles a white Les Paul in the foreground of the music video: ace. Thing is though, they’re not exactly seductive, are they, the drums?
After a pleasant evening out, you could, feasibly, bring your date home and serenade them with your guitar playing abilities. You could play piano for them too – that would be quite nice. Fuck, you could even whap out a theremin and it’d likely go down a quirky treat. One thing you cannot do, ever, as an act of seduction, is play the drums. ‘Here,’ you’d say, cheerily, as your date settles on the sofa with a fresh glass of wine, ‘I wrote a song for you’. You cross the room and pull back a curtain to unveil your full kit, failing to notice the look of shock on your date’s face. ‘Listen to this,’ you grin, sitting down on a little stool and taking out your drumsticks, then proceeding to thrash the living twat out of the cymbals for the next seven minutes.
Is it: The Keys?
Do you remember the sight of Freddie Mercury at Live Aid, vocalising manfully into a mic while playing a grand piano covered in half-finished pints? Every time I watch that clip I want to be him, to exude that raw power and sexuality. Topless, taking great swigs of lager between returning to the keys, swaying, eyes closed, bellowing: would that that could be me. Gary Numan, Robert Smith, Kate Bush, Ray Charles, Damon Albarn, Christine McVie, Little Richard, George Harrison, Stevie Wonder: keyboardists and pianists are super cool, man. There’s no question of that. But where the keys lose out is ease of access.
Young, horny folks in the crowd at your gig may well swoon watching you tickle the pristine keys of a grand piano. Grand pianos, however, are very expensive. Keyboards, too. What’s in the price range of the average No Taste reader? Realistically? An Argos keyboard, mate. That’s all that you and I are going to be playing. DICTIONARY. DICTIONARY. DICTIONARY. Come owwwwn. Come owwwn. DJ! DJ! HUAGHHHH! DICTIONARY.
Wait – is it really the bass?
Yes. Because you know who else plays bass? Phil Lynott. Phil fuckin’ Lynott. Bass wins.
The bass is the sexiest instrument.